Speaker: Andy Lewis-Pye (London School of Economics, UK)    www.aemlewis.co.uk/

Time: 28th August 2015, 15:00

Venue: Seminar Room (334), Level 3, Building 5,

Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS),

4 Zhongguancun South Fourth Street, Haidian District, Beijing 100190

(The address in Chinese and a map are in the attached.)


The question as to why most higher organisms reproduce sexually has remained open despite extensive research, and has been called “the queen of problems in evolutionary biology”. Given the connections to optimisation problems more generally, and especially to issues in genetic algorithms, this is also a question which has recently attracted interest in the computer science community. Theories dating back to Weismann have suggested that the key must lie in the creation of increased variability in offspring, causing enhanced response to selection. Rigorously quantifying the effects of assorted mechanisms which might lead to such increased variability, and establishing that these beneficial effects outweigh the immediate costs of sexual reproduction has, however, proved problematic. In recent work with Montalban, which I shall discuss in this talk, we introduced an approach which does not focus on particular mechanisms, influencing factors such as the fixation of beneficial mutants or the ability of populations to deal with deleterious mutations, but rather tracks the entire distribution of a population of genotypes as it moves across vast fitness landscapes. In this setting simulations now show sex robustly outperforming asex across a broad spectrum of finite or infinite population models. Concentrating on the additive infinite populations model, we are able to give a rigorous mathematical proof establishing that sexual reproduction acts as a more efficient optimiser of mean fitness, thereby solving the problem for this model. Some of the key features of this analysis carry through to the finite populations case.

No background knowledge will be required for the talk.